Am I Really Just Stupid?

I know we’re not supposed to use the s-word (stupid), at least not around small children. And we’re not to call other people the s-word either.

But what about ourselves?

Have you ever called yourself stupid?

When the Answers Don’t Come

“Am I really just stupid?”

I asked my husband Jeff this a few days ago about myself. More than once, actually. I needed an outside opinion about my intelligence lately, or lack of it, to be precise.

I had signed up as a volunteer partner in an online project. It was an area I thought I had some expertise in. I anticipated contributing to the task.

Until the assignments starting rolling in.

And I felt clueless. How could I perform the work if I couldn’t even understand the questions?

I wanted to panic. I googled; I watched tutorials; I asked around.

But the answers weren’t coming.

I wanted to tiptoe backwards out of the group, unnoticed, silently, to avoid looking stupid.


Stupidity Is My Hot Button

I hate feeling stupid.

No one likes the feeling, I suppose. But as an Enneagram Five, I’m particularly touchy about it. We Fives lean on our knowledge as a crutch to feel secure. 

And my crutch was not only kicked away, I envisioned it landing in the dumpster.

Meanwhile, emails were piling up with unfulfilled assignments from the group. My inner ego was under threat.

I opened the next email. But it wasn’t from the group. It was from EnneaThought, a daily newsletter I subscribe to from the Enneagram Institute.

The email said,

One of your sure-fire ‘hot buttons’ is having your competency questioned. How can you be less reactive to such challenges? Try keeping your cool and listening to the other person’s viewpoint.”

Why not try it? When you know you don’t know, what do you have to lose?


This will feel painful, too.

Never Alone

So I resumed responding again to the group. I asked more questions. I confessed ignorance. I gave best-guesses.

  • I still felt limited…

Granted, I realize no single person is the repository of all knowledge on every topic. (But if possible, I’d love to try!) It’s expected that we can’t know everything. Even the top-notch expert and the simplest-minded child are closer than you think on the intelligence scale. 

  • …but I knew I wasn’t empty.

I did know a few things. And when I prioritize what I want to know, I can learn even more things. Our competencies vary from person to person; it’s as it should be. We each decide what’s important to us and we work on that.

We eventually find out what we need to know, even if it’s not everything we want to know. 

  • I still felt vulnerable…

Not knowing what we want to know can feel us leaving unprotected. As if things are spinning out of control, and we can do nothing to stop it.

  • …but I knew I was protected.

None of us are left totally alone to figure out life by ourselves.

We can use the intelligence we do have to ask others for help when we need it. (And thank you, Google.)

Welcome to the Human Race

Thinking we’re only stupid can be a trap, just like thinking we’re only smart.

The truth is: we’re all a little of both. 

The stupidest thing is overestimating our smartness. It’s smarter to know we don’t know it all.

My online group project still hasn’t ended, but we’re closing in on a successful conclusion. I wasn’t able to help as much as I had anticipated.

But I learned a lot. About the project. And about myself.

I learned I’m safer (and smarter too) without that extra layer of pride that gloms to my character, making struggles stickier than they need to be. We all have pride to kill, and we’re better off with it dead than allowing it to keep rising up for one more breath.

I’m not there yet. I’m not smart enough to kill off pride altogether.

But at least I’m more aware of it this month than I was a month ago.

Am I still stupid?

Yes and no. Just like all of us. 

But if I’m smart, I’ll keeping sailing in the same boat with my fellow humans anyway. We’re all floating on a sea of mercy.

Both are smart places to be.

Do you ever feel stupid? How do you deal with it? I’m still grappling with my One Word for 2021, Uncertainty. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Further Reading:

24 thoughts on “Am I Really Just Stupid?

  1. Michele Morin

    I try to give myself lots of grace, but I DO feel stupid when I tackle problems with my blog or just the routine “here’s what you should be doing ” lists from all the social media and SEO experts.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, don’t get me started on blog feelings. lol. Some of my most desperate feelings of stupidity have resulted from technical disasters. Jeff knows to back away when I’m having computer issues. 😉 Just when you think you know something, there’s a busload of more things to learn.

  2. David

    A timely and reassuring post for me this lunchtime- thank you. I often feel stupid and overwhelmed at work. I get lost in the details and forget the bigger picture.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I had a friend who started a new job just a few weeks ago, but it was so overwhelming that it didn’t work out for her. So even though you may feel stupid, obviously you’re doing well if you’re still there! 🙂 Remembering the big picture is a great way to take a step back from our feelings of inadequacy.

  3. Amy Johnson

    Such great wisdom, thanks for sharing. I never feel stupid, but the past year, actually the past four years, I feel one segment of society is in the habit of calling another segment of society stupid if they don’t believe or follow the main stream narrative and choose to think for themselves.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right that there has definitely been a lot of name-calling the past few years, and especially the past year. May we learn to stop judging each other in this way. I’m as guilty as anybody. I may not say my judgments out loud but I’ve thought them often in my head. I’ve been trying to counter my thoughts instead with realizing that people are operating from different sets of facts, so their conclusions are going to differ as a result.

  4. Trudy

    What an honest post, Lisa! Thank you for sharing this deep learning experience. “We’re all floating on the sea of God’s mercy.” Amen! Love and blessings to you!

  5. Lois Flowers

    Aw, Lisa … I’m sorry the volunteer project made you feel like this! I’m glad you were able to give yourself some grace in the end and also find ways for the rest of us of to apply your experience! Your post was very insightful to me for a different reason too … it hasn’t been determined definitively, but I’m pretty sure I’m married to an Enneagram 5 and what you’ve said here helps me understand him better, for sure!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for the encouragement, Lois. It’s been a learning process in more ways than one.

      Glad this can help you understand Randy better. 🙂 We 5s do love chasing down our information! I love learning new things, but I can also get frustrated when I don’t understand something.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll be praying for you in this journey, too, Calvonia. Pride is a hard and stubborn enemy, but with God’s Spirit in us, I trust we can stay in the fight and ultimately win the battle.

  6. Laurie

    Love this, Lisa! I think a lot of us have questioned our intelligence at some point in our lives. When I first began teaching, I asked one of the other chemistry teachers so many questions, I was sure she was getting tired of me coming into her room almost every morning. As it turned out, she loved the company (at least that’s what she graciously said) and we became very good friends. I still see her regularly (or I did before the pandemic) and feel blessed to enjoy her company. You are so right – we are all human. None of us has all the answers.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Aw, what a wonderful story about you and the other chemistry teacher, Laurie! Most people usually are quite compassionate with us when we ask questions; it’s a shame we hesitate to ask, when in the asking, we lower our pride, a great way to enhance our relationships. I hope you and your friend will be able to get together again soon.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Ashley. It’s a delicate balance to remember we’re never as smart as we think we are, but neither are we usually as hopeless as we think we are either. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a moving timeline of where we are on the spectrum between feeling too confident versus feeling too ignorant? We all know people who consistently live on one of the extremes, but I’d guess most of us teeter back and forth around the middle.

  7. Anita+Ojeda

    Yes! I feel stupid a lot (but like to mask it with knowledge). My knowledge of paddling gets in the way of others learning (because in always jump to supply the answer). I’m a work in progress.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Good insight, Anita – Our knowledge can get in the way of others learning. I’m sure I’ve done that way too many times myself too. I’m definitely in the “work-in-progress” boat too. 🙂

  8. April Harris

    Lisa, I so enjoyed this post! It was encouraging and thought provoking, as so many of your posts are. It did remind me that when my son was little, the first nursery and primary school he went to banned the word “stupid”. The children were told it was unkind, whether they thought it of themselves or said it to others. I often fear appearing stupid as well, so I am very grateful you shared it with the Hearth and Soul Link Party. I hope your week is going well.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, April. “Stupid” was one of those words that we told our kids not to say as well. Then as they aged, we had to tell them about the other “s” word that we also didn’t want them saying. 😉

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